Preparation of strategic plan for rural drinking water sector in India – A draft discussion paper by the Department of Drinking Water Supply

Preparing a strategic plan for rural drinking water sector in India with technical and financial details to accelerate coverage across the rural land.

This draft discussion paper by the Department of Drinking Water Supply (Ministry of Rural Development) deals with the preparation of strategic plan for rural drinking water sector in India. The Government of India introduced the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) in 1972–73 to support States and UTs with financial and technical assistance to implement drinking water supply schemes in order to accelerate the pace of coverage across rural India.

The entire programme was given a mission approach when the Technology Mission on Drinking Water Management, called the National Drinking Water Mission (NDWM), was introduced as one of the five Missions in the social sector in 1986. It was renamed as Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (RGNDWM) in 1991 and became the Department of Drinking Water Supply (DDWS) in 1999. Rural drinking water supply is a State subject and has been included in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution among the subjects that may be entrusted to Panchayats by the States.

The paper outlines the (i) Vision and the mission of the Department (ii) Core purpose/objectives of the Department as laid down in the Results Framework Document (RFD), National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) Guidelines (iii) Functions of the Department (iv) An assessment of the situation (v) Criteria for State-wise allocation of NRDWP funds (vi) Main principles of NRDWP and changes made in it (vii) Achievements under ARWSP/NRDWP in last five years (viii) Constraints and impacting external factors (ix) System of monitoring and control over the performance of scheme and (x) Findings of last review/ evaluation of the schemes made by the Planning Commission or by any other agency.

The paper outlines the strategy for the future as follows -

  • Move away from over dependence on single source to multiple sources through conjunctive use of groundwater, surface water and rainwater harvesting;
  • Communitization of drinking water supply schemes with focus on empowerment of PRIs and their involvement right from planning stage followed by implementation and handing over assets created within their jurisdiction;
  • Metered bulk water by the water supply agency (PHED) to the GPs and household metered connections within GP for effective tariff collection;
  • Piped water supply with household tap connection in every rural household with safe drinking water availability on 24x7 basis;
  • Coverage of all rural schools, anganwadis and community buildings with safe drinking water through metered tap connections;
  • All quality affected and uncovered habitations to be covered by 2011-12;
  • Marking of all targeted habitations online giving priority to targeting of quality affected, 0% to 50% population covered, SC, ST & Minority dominated habitations and LWE affected districts; 
  • Effective convergence with other Government programmes like MNREGS, Watershed Management programmes for source sustainability;
  • Effective dovetailing of funds under 13th Finance Commission and other sources to bridge the resource gaps, particularly for O&M;
  • Providing revolving fund to Gram Panchayat for maintenance of schemes;
  • Improving energy efficiency, reduce unaccounted water losses and conducting regular water, energy and social audits of water supply projects;
  • Promoting rainwater harvesting, water conservation, revival of traditional water harvesting systems and low cost technology options for drinking water;
  • Focus on use of new and renewable energy sources to reduce operational costs;
  • Decentralized water quality monitoring and surveillance, testing of drinking water sources by trained people of GPs through field test kits, sanitary surveillance of all drinking water sources, water quality monitoring at sub-division, district and State level water testing laboratories;
  • Preparation and updation of HGM maps for identification of correct sites for drilling new borewells and build recharge structures;
  • Participatory preparation of village, block and district water security plans;
  • Participatory water management including of water demand and budgeting based on watershed/aquifer/hydrological unit approach to ensure drinking water security;
  • Introduction of dual water supply schemes to quality affected habitations   for drinking and cooking purposes;
  • Online IMIS for close monitoring of all the related activities under rural water supply sector;
  • Shift from conventional database/maps to web-based GIS environment;
  • Incentivize good water management by GPs through Sajal Gram Puraskar for achieving drinking water security on 24x7 basis;
  • Appropriate awareness generation and capacity building of PRIs;
  • Under R&D, scientific studies shall be promoted on improving water quantity and quality along with studies on soft issues like IEC, HRD, policy issues, sanitation, health and hygiene related issues.



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